Hitachi is causing something of a stir right now by launching TVs with built-in hard disk drives. Sadly, the L42VP01 is not one of those. Rather it's a 42-inch LCD TV designed first and foremost to hit a low price -- a mere £750 -- and so entice in cash-strapped AV fans who probably didn't think they'd be able to afford a screen so large.
Even if it were a 'normal' 42-inch LCD TV, the L42VP01's £750 asking price would have looked pretty reasonable. So when you realise that the L42VP01 is actually a 'Full HD' 1080p LCD, its value rating suddenly goes off the scale.
Not that the resolution and cheap asking price are the TV's only claim to fame. It also claims to produce a contrast ratio of 10,000:1, a figure that dwarfs those quoted by the vast majority of its LCD rivals -- including some much more expensive ones.
Not surprisingly, this high contrast-ratio figure owes its existence to the L42VP01's use of a dynamic contrast system, whereby the luminance of the LCD backlight is reduced when dark scenes are detected. But although this means you have to sacrifice some brightness when watching dark scenes, it's a system now employed by practically every LCD TV around, and it generally works well enough.
Connections are fair enough for such a cheap TV, including two HDMIs (both able to take the key 1080p/24fps HD format output by most HD disc players), and a PC input. Fed a hi-def source, the L42VP01's pictures are in many ways pretty good. They're certainly very sharp, revealing every last pixel of detail from high-quality HD sources such as the Blu-ray of Casino Royale.
The set has a better stab at producing a believable deep black during dark scenes than most budget big-screen LCDs, too. What's more, it does this without the picture losing as much brightness as we would have expected.
LCD TVs commonly struggle to show fast motion properly, suffering blur and resolution loss. But here again, the L42VP01 really isn't bad at all, coping with Casino Royale's frenetic fight scenes surprisingly well.
The first thing to say here is that the L42VP01 is no great looker. It's not actually ugly, but it certainly lacks the panache of so many flat TVs these days.
Although its basic specifications are pretty good, the L42PV01 isn't exactly overburdened with features either. Particularly troubling is the lack of Hitachi's impressive Picture Master HD processing, which we've witnessed reduce video noise and improve sharpness, especially with standard-definition sources.
And lo and behold, it has to be said that without Picture Master to help it out, the L42VP01's standard-def performance really isn't up to much, suffering quite noticeably with motion blur, strange colour tones and general softness.
There's another more general picture problem too: wishy-washy colours. For some reason, even during HD viewing, colours just don't have the sort of aggressive vibrancy we're now used to seeing with LCD TVs. This leaves images feeling a little flat at times.
Hitachi's L42VP01 certainly delivers on its promise of big-screen Full HD clarity at the knock-down price of £750. We've seldom if ever seen such impressively detailed and sharp HD pictures on such an affordable 42-inch TV.
The problem is the L42VP01 falls a little short in other areas. Certainly, people still living in a predominantly standard-definition household may want to look elsewhere, and the slightly odd lack of colour saturation can't be ignored either.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide